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On The Surface of Things: Where to Run

Cool Running, the web site that brought you the ever popular Couch to 5K running program, has rated running surfaces. Why? In an attempt to help keep runners free of injuries — that's why. Running on rock hard surfaces like concrete, like sidewalks, is hard on the body. To protect your joints you want to look for surfaces that have shock absorbing qualities for the majority of your runs. Also, you should try to be consistent with your surface choice, an abrupt switch can lead to injuries.

Here are the surfaces listed in order of best to worst. The number to the right indicates their "grade" with 10 being the best and 1 being just plain awful:

Grass 9.5
Wood chips 9
Dirt 8
Cinder track 7.5
Track 7
Treadmill 6.5
Asphalt 6
Sand 4
Snow 2.5
Concrete 1

If, after reading the list, you decide to move your runs to asphalt, aka the street - BE CAREFUL. Run defensively! Run towards on coming traffic so you can see what is coming at you. Don't listen to music (or at least keep the volume low enough that you can hear the environment around you). Wear bright colors too so you are easily seen.


runswimmerrun runswimmerrun 8 years
It's hard to find large stretches of grass when you live in the city. There's a track nearby I should use, but it's harder for me to be motivated to drive somewhere to run; it's best if I can run right out my door. Additionally, the track gets tedious really quickly.
CathleenKelly CathleenKelly 10 years
The Bridle path in Central Park is great for running, I just wish they would fill the holes a little quicker after it rains!!!
chloeainturhoney chloeainturhoney 10 years
i always run at the park where it's concrete tracks. now i know why the ouch.
Swangeese Swangeese 10 years
I thought the treadmill would be softer. I know that running on the treadmill for me is a lot better than running on carpet.
mwmsjuly19 mwmsjuly19 10 years
I'm too clumsy for grass. I would indeed turn my ankles out.
erlking erlking 10 years
I jog on trails near my house that are mostly dirt, with a little asphalt. There is one stretch that has wood chips from some trees that had to be cut down. I am always ecstatic when I reach that stretch. It probably helps that it's near the end of my run as well.
sevendayrain sevendayrain 10 years
I jog at a park and its half cement and dirt...but this will help me in the future...and from now on I'll be jogging in the grass.
MaggietheCat MaggietheCat 10 years
That's awesome... why do they make concrete sidewalks? Don't they KNOW we run on them? Let's sue the city govt. jk of course
rubialala rubialala 10 years
Grass can be uneven, though, which can cause you to step funny and hurt yourself (knee, twisted ankle, etc.), so be careful no matter where you run!
EcannDallas EcannDallas 10 years
and ALWAYS bring mace and be alert not just for cars but psychos or loose dogs.
citychic1 citychic1 10 years
good to know...thanks!
rachelbojangles rachelbojangles 10 years
oh, I always run on the sidewalk. :(
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